Maybe Miracles Do Happen?
If people can maintain coherence and avoid terrible detox symptoms, they might be able to hold hope long enough for a miracle to occur. I’ve seen the bumper sticker that says “Expect a Miracle.” Some days I might scoff at such unreasonable hope. Some days I might wish that expecting a miracle was reasonable. Some days I might even utter a hopeful phrase in the direction of the Universe (or its architect.) And if it gets my friend into a detox bed before he dies, I’m a believer!
After a few days of guzzling cheap vodka, in a moment of near-clarity, he decided that he needed to get help. That’s when the sips replaced the gulps and his goal changed from drowning psychic pain from his childhood trauma to keeping himself medically “safe” while trying to get into treatment. Maybe that was the first miracle. Maybe the physical pain of tortured organs after days with no food was enough to rise about the sad surrendered stupor that had been muffling his psychic and emotional pain. Sometimes we call that moment of clarity “hearing the pop.” People learn when they are ready and they change when they are able.
Shame Can Be Lethal
When he could see past his shame and break the self-imposed solitary stupor, he allowed others to help. Fear of death or something had broken shame’s chokehold. Shame begins with “sh” and ends with me asking for or at least accepting help. There were two fears assailing him as he lay on his disheveled bed, floor littered with empty bottles. One fear was absolutely valid – your body is gravely ill. Your behavior is destroying you. Hear the fear and follow it to its logical conclusion – stop this behavior or it will kill you! The other fear is the false fear, perhaps the most effective weapon in shame’s arsenal. This is the fear of being seen in one’s flawed human state – the fear of admitting wrong-doing. Yielding to this fear and remaining silent means remaining captive, remaining powerless, and ultimately death. Allowing this fear to paralyze us means we will not move forward. In the case of my friend, he would die unless he found the courage to try to change.
Daring to try to change (again and again, and as many “agains” as it takes) is the heroic effort that recovery will demand. Recovery is not for the meek or timid. It is the prize eventually available to those who will fight fiercely and pay whatever ransom is required. Daring to recover means that we have to admit our guilt. But guilt is not the same as shame. (Read more about guilt and shame.) Guilt is good for us! If we allow a false fear to keep us from accepting guilt, we risk dying of shame. I’ve met many fiercely brave folks in recovery and I’ve lost too many to shame.
Through some inexplicable circumstances (a story too long to tell) a detox bed became available. To say it became available may make it seem to mundane. There are no open beds. People die while waiting on waitlists. That’s the quietly tragic reality for so many addicted souls and the people who love them. So when an opening became available, I believe that it fell from the sky!
The Miracle of New Growth
I’m plant-sitting for my friend while they seek help. After days and days of waitlists and maybes, an opening became available. That was the day when his plant birthed a shoot – a new leaf in a twisted spike reached skyward. I’ve been watching it open, little by little, each day. It seems a fitting symbol of brave hope.
It’s exciting to watch it progress daily in tiny ways. It also reveals my impatience because I want everything to be OK – NOW! Of course it won’t be OK right away. Not fast, not easy, not even certain.
It is easy to see that this new leaf – new life – is frail. It’s pale and thin. if this leaf is to survive and thrive, it has work to do. It needs nutrients and time. This season will be critically important to the future of that leaf.
I watch the leaf each day, sometimes noting tiny changes between morning and noontime. Each day it has seemed a little less pale and perhaps less frail.
But this will be a long season of slow and important growth. My friend will need to acknowledge his frailty (which can be especially difficult for trauma survivors.) If we admit we are frail, it may echo back to times when we were vulnerable and were victimized. Being frail can make trauma survivors feel extremely exposed. It’s the sort of thing that can lead them to retreat back into the secrecy and silence of shame rather than admit weakness.
But weakness and frailty are indeed natural parts of life for plants and for people who are going to grow and change for good. As we all make the journey life requires of us, may we find the fierce courage that will allow us to acknowledge our frailty. Only then can we truly grow into the beautiful creatures we are intended to be.
Thank you for reading this longer-than-usual post. I hope that in reading it you have learned something helpful. I know that in the writing, I have deepened my faith in frail things and frail people. So I thank you!